The Serpentine Galleries Appoints Bettina Korek, Head of Frieze Los Angeles, as Its New CEO

Korek replaces Yana Peel, who resigned amid controversy in June.

Bettina Korek, 2019. Photo: Johnny Le.

Just in time for its 50th anniversary, the Serpentine Galleries in London has named Bettina Korek as its new chief executive. Korek is currently the executive director of Frieze Los Angeles.

Korek succeeds former Serpentine CEO Yana Peel, who resigned from her post in June following criticism over her and her husband’s alleged ties to a cyberweapons company. Korek will begin in March 2020, following the second edition of Frieze in February.

“This is the only opportunity that could inspire me to leave Los Angeles,” Korek said in a statement. “Some of the most compelling qualities of LA as a city are embodied by the Serpentine as an institution: intrepid innovation, fluidity across disciplines, an irrepressible preoccupation with the future.”

Bettina Korek at Barkar Hangar in 2018. Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Art Los Angeles Contemporary.

A Princeton graduate, Korek worked in the prints and drawings department of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art before moving on to found ForYourArt, a mercurial LA-based art production company, in 2006. With ForYourArt, she helped organize the participating gallery program for the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time in 2012 and in 2017, and served as president of the Los Angeles County Arts Commission from 2016-17. 

In a statement, Serpentine artistic director Hans Ulrich Obrist praised Korek’s “visionary understanding of art and its contexts” and her “incredible track record in supporting artists and their communities.

“Bettina’s excellent track record in arts management, audience engagement, and innovative partnerships will ensure that the Serpentine builds on its legacy and continues to embrace the opportunities for a sustainable future,” adds Serpentine vice-chair Barry Townsley.

Hans Ulrich Obrist and Yana Peel Photo: © Kate Berry

Hans Ulrich Obrist and former Serpentine CEO Yana Peel. Photo: © Kate Berry.

Though its new CEO doesn’t start for months, the Serpentine may be eager to turn the page after the messy departure of its former leader. 

After a 15-year involvement with the Serpentine, including three years as CEO, Peel tendered her resignation in June. The announcement followed a flurry of media reports and public protests alleging her connection to the Israeli cyberweapons firm NSO Group. Peel maintained that the connection was overblown, explaining that the private equity firm she co-founded with her husband, Stephen Peel, supported a management buyout of NSO Group, and that the couple had no stake in the company.

“The work of the Serpentine—and its incomparable artistic director—cannot be allowed to be undermined by misguided personal attacks on me and my family,” she wrote in a statement at the time, characterizing the allegations as “inaccurate media reports now subject to legal complaints.”

Next year marks the golden anniversary of the Serpentine, which was founded in the London district of Kensington in 1970. A second location, the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, opened near the original in 2013.

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